Twisted Together Page 2

After everything, he still cared for me. Still fought for me.

Q stared back, his pale jade gaze ripping me apart, seeing so far inside I had nowhere to hide. And that was what made it so damn hard to pretend.

Q had turned himself into a human punching bag for me to take out the seething anger inside. He let himself be the scapegoat of the bastards in Rio, so I had someone to direct my rage onto. He did so much. Too much. But it wasn’t enough.

Love suffocated my heart, stitching me up until I felt mummified with confusion. Bandages upon bandages held me hostage with no way out of the horrible prison I was in.

“How many times must I wake to you screaming and crying? How many f**king times must I slap you, try and save you from whatever horrors you’re reliving, only for it to do no good?” Q’s French accent thickened as he sat higher, pummelling a pillow into comfortable submission behind him. Leaning back, his thumb caressed my hot and no doubt red cheek from his attempt at breaking my nightmare. “Contrary to what you think of me, hitting the woman I’m about to marry while she’s unconscious is not one of my perversions.”

A soft laugh escaped me. “God, Q. You have the strangest sense of humour.”

The sickly tension existing in the room and the fearful anxiety still thrumming in my blood dissipated. He not only put up with my screams, but he knew just how to free me from the residue of such terror.

The stitching in my heart tore wide, spilling my chest with love so deep and eternal I knew I would do anything, absolutely anything, for this man. He was the reason I was alive. The only reason I wanted to stay alive.

His forehead furrowed. “What makes you think I’m joking?” His fingers dropped from my cheek as his eyes darkened with self-hatred. “I have many perversions, esclave. You think because I fell in love with you, they’re miraculously cured?” He leaned closer, his nose an inch from mine. “You think you know me…” His voice trailed off as thoughts swooped him away from my arms and into the dark I’d hoped he’d left behind.

After I’d hurt him—made him bleed and escorted him to death’s door with a whip in my hand—I feared I’d ruined him. He’d been shut off—remote. Not cold or cruel but protecting his inner thoughts. He’d always been private around me—guarding his inner secrets like a sentinel with a castle full of unspeakables—but it wasn’t until yesterday when Q proposed and branded me that the crack in his façade finally gave me hope.

The burning on my neck amplified, taking over my senses with a dull throb. The scorched skin hurt—even the numbing balm Q rubbed into it yesterday hadn’t halted the singeing, searing ache. But unlike all the other parts of me that’d been hurt over the past month, I welcomed it. It gave me something to focus on.

It gave me purpose.

It reminded me I was owned, and my sanity wasn’t just my responsibility but a necessity. I’d made an oath to Q. I’d signed a contract the moment the ‘Q’ sigil scorched my neck. I was his as he was mine. Therefore, I had to be whole—not just for me but for him.

A chill scattered over my body. What was he thinking? What did he hide behind his tough outer-shell?

Wanting to dispel the darkness in his eyes, I murmured, “I know all I need to know. I know you’re kind and generous; the best lover, protector, and master I could ever want.”

Q clenched his teeth as a flash of ferocity etched his features. “Is that all I am?”

“You’re all that and more.”

“Are you forgetting the question I asked you yesterday? The one where you said yes?”

I smiled, ducking my eyes to trace the sweeping lines of his chest. “No, I haven’t forgotten.”

“I’ll no longer just be your lover, esclave.”

The swell of love hit me again like a squall of hot air. I couldn’t contain it. I didn’t want to contain it. “You’ll be an amazing husband, too.”

Q tensed. “So amazing you didn’t want to run away and get married yesterday. So amazing you said you were tired and wanted to stay here for a few more days.”

My shoulders hunched. I knew he didn’t take my reasoning well. When he’d gone to whisk me away only moments after proposing, I’d been hit by a brick wall of grief. Not just grief but guilt and sorrow and every complicated emotion left over from what happened. How could I explain I wanted to embrace our future and happiness with wide open arms—to throw myself into eternal bliss—but couldn’t. Not while my entire soul was weighed down with the crimes and sins I’d committed. I can’t tell you my nightmares. I can’t share my guilt or trauma. I didn’t want to burden him any more than I had.

Speak to Suzette. Maybe she could help me. Then again, it wouldn’t be fair to talk about such darkness, not after everything she’d survived herself.

Suddenly, Q crushed me against him, dragging my head to rest against his chest. “So much has passed, yet it seems like just yesterday I had my first taste of you. I feel like I know everything about you—the fundamental parts of you. You’re like me in so many ways, but really…I don’t know you at all.” He pressed a fierce kiss to the top of my head. “Not anymore. Pas depuis qu'ils t’ont kidnappée” Not after they stole you.

I’d never seen Q so melancholy, so withdrawn. He held me as if he expected me to drift away—like he was petrified all of this—us, our connection—was an illusion.

I didn’t know how to bring him back. “All you need to know is that I adore you,” I whispered. The nightmare took what energy I had, so I did the only thing I could—I snuggled closer, letting him bind his relentless arms around me until my body creaked and pain echoed in my spine.

Q didn’t speak.

Closing my eyes, I let the clug-clug of his strong heart calm the flickering images of blood and murdered Blonde Angel. Her broken skull, the white shards of bone. I’d lost count how many times I’d killed her in my sleep. But no matter how many times I stole her life, she was always there—reincarnated for my torment night after night.

Q was right. He knew nothing. Because you haven’t told him.

I sighed. What could I tell him? He’d seen me snap and come undone when I beat him bloody. He knew whatever I lived with was too big, too hard to put into words. Only time could heal me. Only the tick-tock of life blotting out what I’d done stood a chance of making me whole again. There was no rushing the process, and that was why I didn’t want to talk to a psychiatrist or anyone who would judge me.

I carried my sins deep—after all, I was a murderer. For someone who’d been unwanted all her existence, the act of taking a cherished life filled me with something transcendent of guilt.

It filled me with shame and inner hatred.

It filled me with filth.

Q sighed hard, stirring the air in the bedroom. Each thought and conclusion jerked his muscles, transmitting his anger through body-Morse code.

My stomach shrivelled with yet more guilt. Guilt for hurting him yet again. “I’m sorry, Q,” I whispered. My lips sealed over the small bandage over the ‘T’ branded above his heart. The mark I’d seared into his skin.

I still couldn’t understand how he’d forgiven me. He’d tried everything over the past month, all in the name of fixing me: being tender. Firm. Angry. Gentle. I pretended each day it was easier. I smiled and nodded and let him believe he was fixing me with every passing moment.

I’d become a better actress than I ever dreamed of, but it made no difference when he could strip me of my lies with one look. Some moments I even believed my pantomime. I swallowed my fibs and felt pure happiness at being better.

But then I remembered.

I wasn’t better. I’d just learned how to bury it so the horror became a part of me. The flashbacks, the recollections—they were a constant companion, and I fought so hard to keep my reactions free from my face.

I couldn’t tell him the truth. It wasn’t fair after everything he sacrificed. I lied when I told him I was strong enough. I spun tales every time I assured him I no longer thought of my tower or felt the urge to barricade myself behind its rotund walls.

I whispered, “I’ll get better. I’m sorry you have to put up with the sleepless nights. I’ll understand if you want me to move downstairs for a while.”

Q squeezed me angrily. “Get that ridiculous thought out of your head. You’re not moving from my f**king side. Tu m'entends?” Do you hear me?

Of course, I heard him. He was my master. Obeying him gave me a sanctuary I never knew I needed. It took away the pressure of thinking for myself when my mind was too jumbled with remorse.

I nodded.

Q swallowed his temper, softening his voice. “Do you want a bath?” His voice may be whisper-soft, but his body didn’t relax. The vice of his arms cut off the blood supply to my fingertips, but I didn’t care. He needed to hold me tightly. He needed to convince himself I was still there and no matter how bad the nightmares got, I would never leave him the way I had before.

I gave him a promise.

Pulling back, I shook my head. Yet another thing tarnished in my life. I used to love baths. Hot water never failed to wash away my worries and turn me into a puddle of contentedness. That was before Leather Jacket almost drowned me, then drugged me while I’d dozed in Q’s tub in Paris.

I couldn’t stomach the thought of submersing myself anymore. I didn’t think I’d ever want a bath again. Not that I’d ever tell Q that. He didn’t need to know the stupid things I feared. I would cease to be the strong woman he needed. And I refused to have him see me as one of his rehabilitated slaves who needed help, rather than an equal who deserved him.

The moment Q stopped seeing me as strong was the day our relationship was over.

Sucking in a breath, I pushed him away, smiling bravely. Locking away my fear and torment, I turned my worries onto the man who would kill for me. The man who had killed for me. The man who’d proposed. The man I was going to marry.

“No, I’m okay. Thank you, though.”

Q frowned. The silver of the moon had given way to pink and purple bruises of dawn. The fading scars looked darker across his face in the gloom. He wore my mark in more ways than one.

I did that. I scarred his beautiful face. I hurt him so much he almost died; all because I couldn’t differentiate between real life and nightmares. I knew Q had undergone a massive transformation when he allowed me to whip him. The fresh scars on his face and body highlighted just how much he surrendered.

How much does he expect in return?

I would gladly pay anything to show him my eternity of gratitude, but I couldn’t deny I was different.

Q clenched his jaw; his five o’clock shadow was thick. The stress of the past few months decorated both our faces, and I feared we’d never go back to who we were.

“I told you not to lie to me. You can’t fool a seasoned bastard like me. Do you think I can’t smell your tales?” His voice rasped, bringing comfort and reprimand.

Dropping my eyes, I focused on the room rather than him. The huge bed cocooned us in a sea of black sheets, and if I looked up to the ceiling, the silver chains from where he’d secured and f**ked me glinted in the new dawn.

The fireplace of hunted deer and the mirrored chest at the foot of the bed granted a strange blend of trepidation and homeliness. Both emotions plaited together, forever linked where Q was concerned.

My eyes fell on the chest holding Q’s myriad of toys. Toys he’d locked away. Will I ever crave pain the same as before?

The memory of forcing him to orgasm overwhelmed me. The carpet burn on my knees, the ache in my jaw as I sucked his cock, the salty taste of him as he exploded down my throat. I missed the passion. I missed the inhibitions between us. I miss liking pain.

“I’m not lying. I truly am better. I don’t need a bath.”

“Then what do you need?” He reached for my hand, planting it over his left pectoral. The heat of his skin set fire to my fingertips; I couldn’t stop staring at the sparrows and barbwire on his chest.

“I need you,” I whispered, wishing for the burn, the overwhelming sexual hunger. However, it was scarily absent. Either my libido hadn’t woken up or that too was broken.

You know what’s broken. You just don’t want to acknowledge it.

I slapped the voice away, raising my eyes.

Q sat stonily, looking part-sculpture, part-monster. “Yet another lie. Qu’est-ce que je vais faire de toi?” What am I going to do with you? Leaning forward, his pale eyes searched mine, tearing through my defences, uncovering things I never wanted him to see.

“I told you to stop lying to me.”

“And I don’t.”

He snorted, his mouth tightening.

I said, “There is such a thing as too much knowledge. Give me time, then I’ll have no need to keep things from you.”

“I gave you time before and look what happened. You built a fortress and blocked me out. You were so damn cold, so f**king untouchable. Forgive me if I don’t trust you won’t do it again.” Q’s hand flew up, his fingers latching around my throat.

I froze, battling two emotions: I knew Q wouldn’t hurt me—not like Leather Jacket—I knew it was love driving him to anger. But I couldn’t stop the panic bubbling in my veins or my wide eyes from giving away too many secrets. I was a victim, and Q didn’t do well with brokenness.

His gaze darkened as my heart thrummed under his thumb. “For God’s sake, Tess. You can’t even let me touch you. How ever did you let me f**k you yesterday?”

I bit my lip to keep from spilling my dirty lies. I let Q hit me yesterday as he needed to remember himself before it was too late. I gifted my pain and would gladly do it every night for the rest of my life to keep him happy. But I would have to fake it. Fake something that before was as much a part of me as inflicting pain was for Q. We’d been the perfect mirror image of each other, and now the image was dimmed, clouded.

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